Research and Creative

An interesting detour

Psychology student Kennedy Hunt discovers new passion through experiential learning
By: Melissa Lombard

Studying psychology was always the plan for fourth-year student Kennedy Hunt. Focused on taking the MCAT and going to medical school, she felt a psychology background would give her an edge. But it has been her experiential learning opportunities on campus that have inspired her to look at another path — industrial and organizational psychology — with future master’s and PhD plans.

“When I came to Mount A, I was very focused on the theory I was confronted with in class, but rarely pushed myself to apply this learning in other areas of my life,” says Hunt. “It wasn’t until I was exposed to the field of industrial and organizational psychology by my professor Dr. Doruk Irak [assistant professor, psychology] that I began to form a pivotal realization that I could combine my academics with my workplace.”

Hunt began her first internship experience in the University’s Alumni Engagement Office as the Quadrant Intern — a communications internship focused on the development of the University’s Linkedin profile — funded by Jill (Hemeon) Rafuse (’73).

“I started this internship during the pandemic, and it was a way for me to apply myself, escape the bleakness of COVID, and really use that time to learn and grow as a person and a professional,” says Hunt.

This virtual work experience immersed her in organizational culture and allowed her to see in real life the theory from her classroom experience. Hunt was inspired to pursue another role in the Alumni Engagement Office — The Layton Fisher Internship in Philanthropy — funded by Layton Fisher (’57).

She also turned this job into an experiential learning academic credit, partially funded by the Experiential Learning and Career Development Office. She is exploring the intersectionality of professional and academic disciplines.

“I plan on using findings from the field of organizational psychology and employing the scientific research model to examine employee motivation and well-being affected by the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Hunt.

Hunt’s study explores questions such as what are the long-term well-being implications for employees forced to move online for work? How can organizations being to grapple with this problem? Who are the most in need of support? What are the necessary organizational safeguards needed? What role does the organization play in recovery?

“I saw how difficult it could be for everyone during this time and I thought it would be a special experience to be able to help,” she says. “And how often do you get the chance to shape your own experience?”

Hunt is surveying 160 potential participants at Mount Allison in the areas of Student Affairs, University Advancement, and Financial Services about their work experience during the pandemic.

Hunt’s now research supervisor Dr. Doruk Irak says it is important to study this topic because the experience of remote work under shared difficult circumstances is novel for everyone.

“This experience is unique for today and it is also universal because all around the world we need to learn how we can support employees’ psychological well-being during this pandemic,” says Irak. “As this is a new experience, we do not have much knowledge from the literature for future consequences, including mental health and organizational outcomes such as performance, motivation, and satisfaction.”

Hunt says combining research with professional experience has been really profound for her.

“Before this, experiential learning was an abstract concept to me and this experience allowed me to pursue an interesting detour that I didn’t realize would mean so much to me,” she says.

While exploring this new path, Hunt has also spent the past two years studying for her original goal — the MCATs — which she successfully completed this summer.